As the result of a state-sponsored doping regime in the lead-up to and during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned Russia from participating at next year’s games.
Bans from the Olympics are not unprecedented. In the aftermath of the two world wars, certain countries – like Germany and Japan – were not permitted to compete.
Also, the IOC banned South Africa for three decades from the 1960s because of its apartheid regime. Afghanistan was suspended from the Olympics in 1999, partly because of the Taliban’s ban on the participation of women athletes. It did not send athletes to the 2000 Olympics.
The ban on Russia from competing at next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea is, however, unique: it is directly linked to the country’s lack of sporting integrity.
The ban is a humiliating blow to Russian sport generally but also to the country’s president, Vladimir Putin. His interest in winter sports was evidenced by Russia spending a record US$51 billion on hosting the Olympics in 2014, which surpassed the previous record Beijing set in 2008.
But just one Olympic cycle later, the integrity of that event – at which Russia topped the medal table – has been undermined, and the Russian flag will not fly at the 2018 Games. Russian state TV has already said it will not broadcast from South Korea, where the country’s athletes were expected to be medal contenders in one-third of its 102 events.
Aside from Putin’s reaction, there are several further points of interest arising from the ban.
First, it is likely that Russia will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Russia appealed its ban from the 2016 Rio Paralympics – it remains banned from the Winter Paralympics – to CAS. This time, expect the appeal to be founded on the due process argument that the reports upon which the IOC’s decision is based – the McLaren reports of 2016 and the IOC’s Schmid Commission – were investigatory only. While the evidence, at first instance, appears compelling, Russia has yet to test or answer it in an adversarial setting.
Second, the IOC’s ban is not a blanket prohibition, and the IOC has said that it will allow athletes from Russia to compete under a neutral flag and as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.
Similar to what occurred in the lead-up to the Rio Olympics in 2016 – where a ban on Russia competing was contemplated – the IOC has laid down strict testing criteria which…